Future, noun

  1. A period of time following the moment of speaking or writing; time regarded as still to come.
    1. Events that will, or are likely to, happen in times to come.
    2. The likely prospects for, or fate of, someone or something in times to come.

Futurity, noun

  1. The future time.
    1. A future event.
    2. Renewed or continuing existence.

Futurist, noun

  1. An adherent of Futurism.
  2. A person who studies the future and makes predictions about it based on current trends.

The term ‘futuring’ has its roots in the post–World War II era. Scientists, politicians, and academics began to consider ways of anticipating the future, this led, among other things, to the founding of the World Future Society in the mid-1960s. The concept of futuring has been, and still is, widely used in innovation research. Dutch oil company, Shell, could be seen as a pioneer in this field – already in the early 1970s they were making use of so-called ‘scenario research’ as a meaningful way to forecast future business strategies. The scenario approach was mainly aimed at stretching mental models about the future, the goal being not to predict the future as such, but to make future possibilities imaginable in order to test the robustness of the current business strategies.

The verb futuring as practiced at Design Academy Eindhoven (DAE) has many meanings. It could refer to the imagining of possible trends and developments in society, and in this sense it is connected to trend-research and trend forecasting. Futuring also can imply thinking about preferred future activities, or speculating about things which could possibly happen. Futuring could thus indicate a ‘warning’ or serve as a means to instigate a debate. In thinking about the future, the aspect of time is very important: How many years ahead are we looking at, and how many years back into the past? Clearly it is important to take events of the past into account in order to create meaningful insights about the future.

In general people are not particularly capable of thinking about the future; unrealistic optimism tends to cloud the accuracy of future predictions (Weinstein, 1980). Psychological research shows that people are more likely to believe in a future that is appealing to them. Conversely, the more someone dreads or fears a potential outcome, the less likely they think it is to happen.

Nevertheless, thinking about the future can still be very meaningful, for instance for elderly people that need to take decisions concerning future housing/living conditions, pensions or health care insurance. In the research project My Futures that researchers from DAE carried out with researchers from TU Delft, the team came to understand that designers can play a role in helping people to think about their futures. The aim of the project is to broaden people’s vision of their personal future, from a singular, probable future, to include a multitude of desirable futures that extend not just to the probable, but also to the possible and the imaginable.

Design tools can also help enable speculation via future scenarios that often go beyond the imaginable, for example through films. By means of storytelling and intentionally overstating things that could potentially happen, these tools could be used to instigate a discussion or create upstream engagement regarding upcoming scientific research or emerging technologies.

DAE examples

  • Readership Strategic Creativity, My Futures, diverse projects, 2016-2018

  • Martina Huyngh, Fluid Politics, Graduation project Man and Communication, 2018


  • Sleeswijk Visser, F. & Ernst, E. (Eds.). (2017). MyFutures: the future is plural. Delft: StudioLab Press. Download the booklet here:
  • Weinstein, N. (1980). Unrealistic Optimism About Future Life Events. In Journal Of Personality and Social Psychology, 39(5), p 806-820.